Humans are at the best levels of performance physically possible, according to a group of scientists. While you may think that’s a good thing, there’s a catch.
Barring some groundbreaking medical technology, they say our lifespan, athletic performance, and height may only decrease from here on out.
“These traits no longer increase, despite further continuous nutritional, medical, and scientific progress,” Jean-François Toussaint, a physiologist at Paris Descartes University in France who was part of the study, said in a press release. “This suggests that modern societies have allowed our species to reach its limits.”
For the study, a group of French scientist from various fields combed through 120 years of historical records and research figure out how human athletic performance, our lifespan, and height, have changed over time. They say the 20th century saw a steep rise in improvements for all three, thanks to medical and scientific advances, but the rate at which it increases has significantly slowed in recent years.
The team focused on world records for various sports like athletics, swimming, and weight-lifting. They say Olympic athletes in these sports continued to beat older records from the early 1900s to the end of the 20th century. However, since then, the improvements have been minor.
Basically, we’ve stopped getting faster and stronger. In addition, the researchers say we’ve also stopped getting taller. Data gathered by the NCD (non-communicable diseases) Risk Factor Collaboration showed a significant increase in the height of men and women from 187 countries, between 1896 and 1996. But records from the last three decades instead show height has plateaued in developed regions like North America and Europe.
As far as our lifespan is concerned, the average rose in high-income countries by about 30 years in the last century. However, scientists believe we’ve maxed out, and that number is even likely to decay. Despite the advance of science, humans may have changed the environment to the extent that it’s having a negative effect on our longevity, especially where climate change and pollution are